Meet George Wakim. The man who built not only a premiership dynasty of the Preston Bullants but also the club itself.
Wakim was simply a proud father when his son Daniel played in the junior ranks. Taking note during that time, the Bullants didn’t have a senior side. Players, once reaching under 18 level would go off and play elsewhere.
Initially, Wakim wasn’t as hands on as he became, as a father on the sidelines he would be part of conversations about how the boys could retain the comradery and mateship they forged during the junior years, which he explained to Russell Barnes on the VAFA Legends podcast.
“A few parents got together and they decided to start up a senior footy club and see if we can make a pathway from the juniors for the boys to play seniors. Initially it was going to be under 18’s and under 19’s but it grew from there.” Wakim recalled.
“In the third year (of the clubs senior development) I came across and we had our first senior side, a reserves side and an under 19’s side, I worked pretty hard to get committee members on board.”
Wakim was the man given the opportunity to coach the senior side, his results were as incredible as they were immediate, leading his chargers to four senior flags in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019.
George became a coach for the ages, his pre-game speeches the stuff of dreams for his players. Drawing inspiration from WW2, famous battles of the past, and going for broke at every opportunity.
He was also reprimanded by the competition for attending directly from his job to coaching in his fluro attire.
“I actually got a smack on the hand from the VAFA, I got told I couldn’t come to the game in my hi-vis, I’m in the building industry so if you work on a Saturday it’s double-bubble, but I was never one to put my hand out at the club, I wasn’t making any money really.. I was losing money.” Wakim jokes.
Prior to changing their name to the Preston Bullants at the start of 2016, the Northern Blues formally became a senior club in the VAFA for the 2013 season and they wasted no time in making their mark on the competition.
He was named the VAFA Coach of the Year for the first time in 2014 following his side’s 24-point Division 3 Grand Final win over Richmond Central. A Grand Final he remembers fondly, but also because he wore the incorrect jumper when accepting the club’s Premiership trophy. Not that it worries Wakim in the slightest.
“We certainly did it tough at Preston, for me that was one of the selling points. We’re going to play against these clubs that have got everything, and we have nothing, let’s take it up to them.”
Just two years later, Wakim was named the Coach of the Year (Divisions) yet again on the back of their incredible 12-point win over St John’s in Division 2.
“2016 is a little bit different, we just got Sean Calcedo to the club, and a few good players returned. And it happened to coincide with Madeline (George’s daughter) being diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t going to coach and Madeline said ‘dad just do everything as normal I want you to coach’ and it did take my mind off what Madeline was going through”
“It was special, we went through the whole season, she had cancer, I found it really hard to go to sleep before she went to sleep, coaching and trying to win, the boys were just tremendous that year.. When I look back on it now I think ‘geez’ I don’t know how I did it.”
For all the success, four premierships in 7 seasons, dual coach of the year honours, perhaps the epitome of George Wakim came in 2021, his final year in charge of the Bullants.
After no games in 2020, Preston entered the 2021 season in Premier C for the first time in the clubs history, however financially stricken Wakim made the decision to coach the Bullants for free.
A true testament to the man who will be etched in Preston Bullants history forever.